Often we hear of people defying the odds and sprouting from very challenging situations which could easily stifle them, and in their deeply emotional narrations, there have been mentions of women they've looked towards to model their own life story. Gayonne Campbell, the Club Sandals Manager at Sandals Negril, is one such woman who has been to many young people in her family, community and on the job, the powerhouse of a woman they would want to emulate.
"I am so proud of my journey. I broke the cycle of poverty encircling my family, defied the stigma tacked on to the community I grew up in, to be the success I am today. I was able to do that because Sandals gave me a chance," she said.
"Ms Campbell motivates me every day. If we are having a bad day we are 100 per cent sure she will uplift us. She is creative and spontaneous and most importantly I am driven by her story which she will share with us as she looks to inspire and push us," shared Club Sandals Agent Kimone Scott.
Though small in stature, her voice and personality command the biggest of spaces, leaving wide smiles, soul-searing laughter and inspiring memories in her wake. Born and bred in the volatile community of Grange Hill, Campbell shared that education for her family was as important as the roof over their heads. She matriculated to Rusea's High School but the overbearing transportation costs forced her mother to move her closer to home. She finished her secondary education at Grange Hill High School.
After graduating, further education was not in her cards right away and Campbell started working as a cashier before she saved up enough to enrol in Kenilworth Heart Academy. There, she completed levels I, II and III in business administration. She left Kenilworth and went on to give birth to her son. On the hunt for a job for close to a year, a friend shared with her details on the Sandals Hospitality Training Programme and she joined as a front office trainee at Sandals Negril in 2009.
This introduction into the industry proved to be a fulfilling one. With no vacancies in the front office after her six-week stint ended she made it known that she was willing to try other departments. The then operations manager Maylene Pringle, impressed with the young star, employed her as a cabana agent where she would cater to guests who booked private huts on the beach, serving and taking care of their needs.
"Listen, that was tough but I was steely in my determination to do it anyway. I was so small, at 80 pounds people called me a wiss-wiss, but I still carried those trays of food and anything needed to ensure my guests were well taken care of. I knew another opportunity would come," she shared.
Sure enough Campbell later moved to the sales department as junior sales executive, exercising more of her people and sales skills. She soon moved again into the then Soon Come Department (now Loyalty and Travel) as an agent and this she did for seven years.
"During that time I won so many awards I think I've lost track. I was a leading sales representative and I got results. For three years in a row I won the Millionaire's Award for the team members who made more than a million US dollars per year for the company. I won Revenue Earner Awards, Diamond Team Member of the Month, Grooming, Smile and Courtesy, General Manager's Award and numerous others.
Being in Campbell's presence for only a few minutes will either have you doubled over with laughter or captivated by her riveting rendition of Tina Turner's Simply the Best.
"I got along so well with my guests because even while selling vacations, I was more focused on building a bond with them over closing the sale. And they would book vacations over and over," she shared. She added that some even booked their vacations so they could come back to see her every year.
Now Campbell did not only make use of the job opportunities Sandals gave her but she also benefitted from a Sandals Corporate University (SCU) scholarship to further her education. "I was blessed enough to receive an SCU scholarship which I augmented with savings from my commissions and I was able to complete an associate's degree in hospitality management from the Western Hospitality Institute," she shared.
With her experience in the industry, she graduated with distinction and top of her class. Degree in tow, and evident leadership potential under her belt, Sandals Negril placed her on a succession plan and within a few months Campbell was given the opportunity to lead the Loyalty and Travel team at Beaches Negril.
"I was told Beaches was a tough job with hard to meet targets, but I never back down from a challenge. This being my first go at leadership I was determined to show them what I was made of. I went to Beaches Negril and bonded with the amazing team there and for 16 consecutive months I met the very same target I was told would be a tough task for me," she shared proudly.
A year and four months was enough and she felt she was ready for a bigger resort and a tougher task. "I also knew that I wanted to finish my house, I had just bought a new car and being the main breadwinner of my family, I was also looking to increase my earnings," she said.
In 2018 Campbell advanced in her career once more and she moved from the 185-room hotel to Sandals Ochi Beach Resort boasting 529 rooms.
Always landing in the tough spots with the hard to meet sales targets, this career move tested her grit and mettle but she got down to business. By month four her team was beating their targets.
With four years telling stories of much success in the Ocho Rios region she was ready to return home to Westmoreland as she yearned to be closer to her family.
Reaching out to General Manager David Latchimy at Sandals Negril, she expressed her desire to return to where it all started and later he advised her of a new role available as the Club Sandals Manager.
"I jumped at it because I would be more involved in the operations which would open me to more career opportunities. I've given myself two years to master this role and then I intend to move into the rooms division or operations management and I will do it, because this is Sandals and the opportunities will for sure present themselves" she shared confidently.
"I was given opportunities at Sandals, I took them and I didn't run, I flew. I had some great leaders who taught me a lot. I was exposed to so much. I applied for my passport because of my job, I was outfitted with three different visas because I had to travel to these places because of work. My first time stepping into an airplane and travelling to seven different Caribbean islands was bought and paid for by Sandals. I travel as much as I desire for personal reasons because this poor girl, not used to financial security, can now afford to live the life she dreamt of and provide the same for her loved ones," she shared. "I love this brand, and I will never forget how much it changed my life."
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